A great horned owl tangled in a football net was rescued on Friday morning by residents of Hawthorn Woods, village gardeners and a dog with a good sense of smell.
Lauren Vondrasek left her home in Hawthorn Woods around 6:30 a.m. to walk her Goldendoodle named Roo. Usually a creature of habit, Roo led Vondrasek off their normal route to a nearby soccer field.
“Roo led me straight to this amazing owl trapped in the football net,” Vondrasek recalled. “It was way back in the net. Maybe he was chasing a rodent or a rabbit and got stuck.”
Vondrasek said she could tell the owl had been struggling for a while because of how deeply entangled it was in the net. His first thought was how to help.
She called 911 and was advised by the friendly dispatcher to call an animal rescue organization instead.
Vondrasek walked Roo home while calling for rescue groups, only to find that none had yet opened. She quickly returned to the football field equipped with a pair of gloves and a few snippers, and she began to cut the net.
“I was a little scared. He was flapping his wings and his beak was clicking trying to pinch me,” Vondrasek said.
A few minutes later, three village gardeners arrived to tend the grounds, and Vondrasek quickly recruited them to the cause.
“I told them what was going on and they took action,” Vondrasek said.
Working together, the group slowly cut the net. Although the owl, whom they dubbed the goalkeeper, was upset throughout the rescue, Vondrasek said the bird gradually calmed down, but still seemed quite upset.
The owl did not immediately fly away once freed from the net, so one of the keepers covered it with a coat and placed it in a cardboard box on top of a cart that another neighbor had brought to serve as an improvised stretcher.
Vondrasek drove the owl home in the cart, calling animal rescue services along the way. She entered her house briefly, leaving the owl to rest in the box on the driveway.
When Vondrasek returned, she found the owl had flown away.
“I was super excited to see he was okay and able to fly,” Vondrasek said.
She returned to the football field to thank the guards and tell them that their new owl friend had taken flight. The group then spotted him perched on a nearby cell tower.
When they went to take a closer look, the owl screeched and flew into the forest.
“He seemed to fly like a champ,” Vondrasek said. “We were so excited to help her.”